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Huntington gets two more Marines

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STAND TALL: Alyssa Aldred, left, and Emily Paulette, right, stand in front of the Eternal Flame memorial outside of the Huntington County Courthouse. This past week was the first time the pair came home since graduating boot camp on Friday, March 8.
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GRADS: Alyssa Aldred, left, graduated with the rank ofprivate, and Emily Paulette, right, graduated with the rank ofprivate first class. Within the next four years, both hope to become staff sergeants or sergeants, with Paulette hoping to also become a member of "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band.

by Andrew Maciejewski

amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

Emily Paulette and Alyssa Aldred’s past week has been like a dream.

Normally when they wake up from their dreams, they’re transported back to the reality of struggling through grueling obstacles courses as they make their way through Marine Corps boot camp.

But boot camp is over. Paulette and Aldred are no longer just graduates of Huntington North High School (HNHS). Both are now Marine Corps privates, with Paulette earning the title of Private first class.

The pair graduated with the November Company of the 4th Recruit Battalion on March 8, joining the 8 percent of women who currently serve in the Marine Corps. It wasn’t an easy path, they say, but the honor walking across the stage knowing they will serve their country speaks for itself.

“It felt great,” Paulette said. “It’s unreal after the crucible and you receive your eagle, globe and anchor. It’s just one of those moments that you’re never going to forget because you’re like ‘this is it, I’ve finally made it.’ It doesn’t really hit you for a little bit, but finally on family day when you get to see everyone that’s been rooting for you when you’re gone, it really hits you. It's very emotional.”

When Aldred graduated in 2016 from HNHS, she wanted to join the military, but she got accepted to college and enrolled. After a year in college, she decided she should have gone with her gut, so she joined the Marine Corps and hasn’t looked back since, fighting through boot camp with all she had.

“It still feels unreal that I made it through boot camp,” Aldred said. “It was definitely more of a challenge for me… I struggled… but I’m glad that I made it through.”

Aldred said her passion to join the military doesn’t put her education on the back burner. Within the next four years, she hopes to become a staff sergeant or sergeant, but in the near future, she will be stationed in North Carolina at Camp Johnson.

As a senior at HNHS, Paulette wanted to go to college to study music therapy. She never saw herself enlisting in the military, but when she decided to talk to meet with recruiters from four branches of the military, she found that the Marine Corps was the “perfect fit.”

“I realized everything that the Marine Corps held was exactly what I held – the pride, the confidence, the family values, self belonging – just everything I held in a high regard,” Paulette said. “The Marine Corps strives for perfection, and that’s everything I always did and everything I always wanted.”

Paulette auditioned for the band, and got in. After she completes combat training, she’ll be attending the Naval Academy of Music in Virginia Beach, Va., where she hopes to become a staff sergeant or sergeant. She also hopes to one day play for “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band.

Paulette said often times, high schoolers don’t know all of their options to continue their education, especially since the Military offers free higher education to recruits and members.

“A lot of people forget that you don’t necessarily have to go to college to earn your education,” she said. “There are a lot of other options that have benefits that go along with them.”

Upon hearing that HNHS is thinking about getting a JROTC program, Aldred said she really hopes the school follows through with the program because it will give graduates a step up.

“I think it would be a good idea because if the high school does do it, then you go to boot camp with a higher rank,” Aldred said.

Paulette wants to encourage everyone in high school to sit down with a recruiter, since she wishes she would have gotten involved before halfway through her senior year, whether they are interested in joining the military or not.

“For a lot of people, it’s not for them, but there are a lot of people who it’s meant for and they don’t think about it until it is way too late,” Paulette said. “There are plenty of girls in my platoon that are 27 years old and are cutting it close, getting to that age where you can’t enlist. Everyone finds it at different times, and I think it’s better to find it sooner than later.”

Sgt. Dalton Rose, a Marine Corps recruiter who helped Paulette and Aldred get to where they are today, said he knew both women were suited for the challenge.

“Confidence is definitely a big one,” he said. “Usually when we get new applicants, especially females, they tend to lack self confidence. That’s one of the big things that I was talking with Emily’s mom about – she could just see the self-confidence boasting off of her. They are proud of what they do. It’s definitely been a long road, but anyone who graduates Marine Corps boot camp is top-notch.”

Both Paulette and Aldred said they’ve really enjoyed their journey, which is far from over, so far.

“Recruit training is definitely a challenge, but you make a lot of great friends along the way – a lot of life long friends,” Paulette said. “There are definitely a lot of struggles you have to go through, but it’s not unattainable. At the end of the day, you know what you’re fighting for and you just have to keep yourself positive.”